Saturday, July 24, 2010

An (im)perfect blueberry crostata


Occasionally, a recipe enters my life for which I am supremely grateful.

Sometimes it's because the recipe, exactly as it's written, is perfection, such as Marcella Hazan's roasted chicken with two lemons, or Baking Illustrated's chocolate chip cookies. These are two recipes I will make my whole life.

Other recipes I love because they teach me a technique which I can then adapt to suit my whim. The raspberry buttermilk cake I've written about many a time is one such recipe. It's a good recipe--not necessarily a great one--but a good one that has simple ingredients, makes the right-sized cake for our household, and can take almost any kind of fruit, no matter what the season. The crostata I made recently is another such recipe.

I discovered it years ago and originally made it as written, with apples. But then I got tired of apples, so I moved on to pears. Pears gave way to pears-and-cranberries, which lead to straight-up cranberry crostata, and this week, I made it with blueberries.

I love the dough for two reasons: it comes together rapidly, and since it's a crostata, it's free-form. Maybe because I'm the daughter of an artist, or maybe because I lack the technical skills, I don't like rolling things out into perfect circles and tucking them tidily into pans. I like keeping it a little earthy and rustic. I'm OK with crust that's oblong instead of round, and 1/8" in some places and 1/4" in others. No one will ever accuse me of being a perfectionist, which is fine with me, because while I kind of admire perfectionists, as they seem so disciplined and focused while I'm haphazard and bedraggled, with flour on my face and blueberry juice on my t-shirt, I sometimes feel a little sorry for them too. There's something wonderful about embracing and not judging the messy but delicious results of your hard work.

I've found you can add nearly anything to the filling and even wing the amount of fruit, as long as you don't add too much. I've gotten overzealous with piling the fruit too high before and it's resulted in a runny crostata. Not only does this lead to a soggy crust, but it makes the pan a hassle to clean.

This time, I got it just right with the blueberries. I'm not sure how many I used. Maybe a couple of cups? I tossed them with a little sugar, lemon juice and zest, and a dash of almond extract. Simple, delicious, and summery.

I hope you try this recipe, using whatever fruit strikes your fancy. I don't think you'll be disappointed; after all, it's practically perfect.

20 comments:

  1. I love freeform fruit tarts! There's a time and a place for perfection - for me, that's usually at work. And I'm a blueberry nut. Your photos make me a little jealous, because blueberries are outrageously expensive here. All the more reson to gorge on them when I go home, right?

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  2. This looks incredible. I just went and wrote down the recipe. My hubs loves blueberries so I must try this

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  3. Oooh. This looks like a perfect way to enjoy blueberries.

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  4. That looks wicked good. I bet it would be good with strawberries too. Heh, I bet it would be good with any berry!

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  5. I agree, Samantha. I love crostadas for the same reason...nobody will pick up on my total inability to roll out a crust correctly. (I read recently to do it between plastic wrap or wax paper. Haven't tried it yet though.)
    Love that you can use any fruit...but blueberries are perfect right now. (Am certainly going to try the cranberry idea.)

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  6. Loooove blueberries! I think your crostata looks perfect the way it is! "Perfect" looking foods usually look unnatural (and might be and don't always taste great as flavor gets compromised for cosmetic reasons).

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  7. heck, nothing's perfect, but i think this is about as close as one can come when it comes to fruity desserts. masterful work!

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  8. Camille: I've been crazy for blueberries this season too. Just bought two more pints of them today!

    tamilyn: Let me know if you try it!

    oneordinaryday: Yep, it's simple and summery.

    Bob: It would be great with strawberries. That might be next on my list!

    Barbara: The plastic/parchment paper thing does actually work pretty well. For this recipe, I just rolled it out on the silpat, then put the silpat on the baking sheet.

    Connie: Thanks! And yes, there's something much more believable about a slightly imperfect pie!

    grace: Aw, thanks :)

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  9. Wish "rustic" could fly during class sometimes!

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  10. I love rustic and freeform and creative. That is one awesome blueberry photo too by the way, and like Grace, I think this crostata is pretty perfect. Thanks for the recipe link, will definitely try it out.

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  11. Jessica: I suppose rustic doesn't work in pastry school! :)

    shaz: Thanks! Give it a try.

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  12. mmm, looks beautiful and delicious, maybe something I could even pull off! I just love blueberries... and I am definitely into rustic over refined. Another inspiring post.

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  13. That last photo looks mesmerizing! I like imperfect crostatas too!

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  14. foodhoe: Oh, you could totally make this. It's simple!

    Ben: Thanks! :)

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  15. So simple and perfect - I love the folded over edges and how it's got the human touch versus a too-perfect pastry that you wonder if a machine made it.

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  16. Imperfect is the way to go...esp. in baking which is usually perfect!

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  17. As always, your food intrigues me. I love it.

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  18. wasabi: yes, this one was clearly made by a person--no tidy edges here.

    A Little Yum: agreed!

    Velva: Thank you--you are sweet!

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